The Hungarian Association of Book Publishers and Distributors organises regularly the competition for the title of the “Most Attractive Book of the Year”, inviting publishers of Hungarian works produced inside and outside the national borders.

The competition is run in eight different categories: children’s books; textbooks; reference books; scientific works, professional books and publications of higher education; fiction and books for teenagers; art books and albums; bibliophile and other special publications; facsimile, reprint and adapted publications.

The main objective of this annual contest is to honour the books that are of special value to Hungarian book production. The jury does not evaluate content, but examines issues of typography, book design and the quality of printing.

It was in 2003 that the National Széchényi Library first entered one of its publications produced jointly with the Hungarian Book Club, namely the album called Treasures from the Nation’s Library issued to commemorate the library’s 200th anniversary. Based on visitors’ votes at the 10th Budapest International Book Festival, this volume earned the public’s annual award in 2003. This has been the first time in the history of the award the library has received this token of appreciation.

Motivated by this success, in 2004 we already entered ten volumes and competed successfully. The exhibition catalogue The Ten Bamboo Studio, won a certificate in the category of art books and albums. Our Old Hungary in Postcards, published jointly with Osiris, was also honoured with a certificate. Visitors to the 11th Budapest International Book Festival and an exhibition at the Veszprém Cultural Centre again voted for the public’s award to be given to our exquisite album, the Maps of Europe 1520–2001, which we jointly issued with Helikon.

In the 2004 “Most Attractive Book of the Year” competition, publications of the National Széchényi Library won further recognition. Two of the eight professional prizes, the public’s award, as well as the Hungarian President’s special award and the József Antall Memorial Award were conferred on them. In the category of art books and albums, In the Name of the Raven – Chapters from the History of the Corvinas, a joint publication with Corvina, received the chief prize as well as President Ferenc Mádl’s special award. In the same category, the book jointly published with Osiris, called Life in Old Hungary won a certificate and the József Antall Memorial Award. At the same time, Life in Old Hungary also received the public’s award, meaning that this publication had received the most votes in the Book festival and the Veszprém special exhibition. All this suggests that in three consecutive years, the general public has always considered Széchényi Library publications to be the most beautiful Hungarian books of the year.

In the 2004 competition for the “Most Attractive Book of the Year”, the chief prize for bibliophile and special publications went to the Records of Móric Benyovszky in Madagascar in 1772–1776, published jointly with Kossuth Publishing House.

Besides doing their routine work, National Széchényi Library experts are active presenting important works of science to the general public. Special mention is to be made of Katalin Plihál and the staff of the Map Collection, Mária Cseh and the team of the Collection of Small Prints, Orsolya Karsay and her colleagues, the excellent photographers in the Photo laboratory, the specialists in the Hungarian Electronic Library and the editors of visual material. For their research over the past years, our very special thanks go to our external contributors, especially the Sinologist Mária Ferenczy, the ethnographer Vilmos Voigt and the historian János Gyurgyák.

The prestigious awards are given to, and are to a large extent due to all those artists who created the best form for presenting the unchallengeable scientific content deserving of Széchényi’s name, as in fact, the “Most Attractive Book of the Year” title is an acknowledgement of their design activities. Primarily, we should thank the typographer László Kiss, the photographer József Hapák, the book design-artist Ilona Kiss, the typographers Anikó Környei and Simon Koppány, the reprographer György Filakowszky, as well as all the unnamed staff members of the Alföldi Printing House who have helped in creating these beautiful volumes.

We are proud of the fact that the Hungarian Association of Book Publishers and Distributors and the jury they nominate have for three consecutive years judged that not only in their content but also in their appearance, the publications of the National Széchényi Library have been highly sophisticated, vitally important and truly noble pieces of the Hungarian book publishing heritage and culture.

Barbara Kiss barbara@oszk.hu